“Learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. (Isaiah, 1, 17)”
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, driven by our commitment to uphold the Reign of God in our land, joins all freedom-loving Filipinos and all peoples of goodwill in the multi-sectoral, interfaith, intergenerational SONAgKAISA.
Indeed, it is time again to make a stand, speak up and be counted. There is so much pain and suffering in our beloved land. There is so much hatred and division in our midst and we cry out, “They have treated lightly the injury to my people: “Peace, peace!” they say, though there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6, 14)
Instead death stalks the land. Poverty and want envelops our poor and dehumanized. Justice eludes the orphans and widows. Destruction is perpetuated by extractive industries and agribusiness.
All these for unbridled greed for profit and power. All these for mammon and the dealers of death and destruction.
As religious superiors of various congregations and institutes of consecrated life, we are driven by our commitment to serve as modern-day prophets and mystics, try to live up to that role by discerning the “signs of the times” and respond to the challenges of our times by reminding our government leaders to value their constituents.
In the past four years, we are disturbed by what we have witnessed. We remember how God has “witnessed the affliction of (his) people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters,” (cf. Exodus 3,7), Today, we too see and feel the suffering of our people, and we find ourselves compelled to ask, Nasaan ang tapang at malasakit? (Where is the courage and compassion?)
Is it tapang to kill unarmed, helpless, poor people in the name of a “war on drugs”? Is it not fundamentally wrong from any point of view, moral or legal, to take a life without regard for due process and rule of law? Reports say it has reached 27,000 victims whose families lost a mother, a father, a wife or husband, an uncle or aunt, a daughter or son, a brother or a sister, a lolo or lola. We can not begin to fathom their immense pain and anguish, for they are no more. It is a wound that we pray can be healed by prayer and hope – that someday a day of reckoning will come and justice will indeed flow like a stream. As Scripture says: “For with fire the LORD shall enter into judgment and, with his sword, against all flesh; those slain by the LORD shall be many.” (Isaiah 66, 16).
Is it tapang to bombard us repeatedly and incessantly with chauvinistic, misogynistic words, as if women were mere chattel? As we accord the highest respect for our Queen, Mother Mary, so too must we give the higher respect for women and all vulnerable persons for they too were created in the image and likeness of our ever-loving God. Pope Francis reminds us: “if we want a better world…, we take to heart the dignity of each woman…, (because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful.) (Pope Francis, Homily, January 1, 2020)
Is it tapang to refuse to stand up and claim what is rightfully ours in the West Philippine Sea? Is it tapang that drives us to treat our fellow Filipinos as second-class citizens while all the time bowing to the wishes of an imperial power? We stand in solidarity with all of the oppressed peoples of this world but never at the cost of the dignity of the Filipino nor the sovereignty of our nation.
Is it tapang to launch a never-ending assault on perceived personal enemies with such viciousness, especially towards women — Senator Leila de Lima, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB and Vice-President Leni Robredo, to name a few. We will never be able to build a truly caring, loving and compassionate nation without our women. From their wombs spring forth life, and from their eyes, the vision of a future “flowing with milk and honey” (cf. Exodus 33, 1-3).
Is it malasakit to arrest and jail more than 90,000 Filipinos while on the longest of lockdowns? Instead of treating the pandemic as a public health issue it has been reduced to a peace and order problem with Filipinos being charged as pasaway. Is this not to hide the inadequacy of government action to the health crisis and its slow response?
Is it malasakit to continue with mining and other destructive activities such as coal and coal plants with no regard for the health and future of our people? To our mind, mining and coal are the graveyards of our future and our hope for a sustainable and healthy world. Pope Francis reminds us: “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.” (Laudato Si’, 14)
Is it malasakit to relentlessly attack human rights and human rights defenders? Red tagging them, killing them, arresting them and having them disappear? They who have given all for our poor and exploited must be allowed the space to do their work. They are the apostles of our time – giving their lives for our fellow women and men. Is this not what the commandments say, to “love your neighbor”? (cf. Matthew 22, 39; Mark 12, 31)Is it tapang and malasakit to curtail our fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution – right to life, freedom of expression and of the press, right to peaceably assemble in redress of grievances among others? We are witness to the steady erosion of our democratic institutions and processes. The law has been weaponized to hunt down perceived enemies. The law has been practiced selectively with the poor whipped with injustice while the powerful swagger with impunity.
Is it tapang and malasakit to foist an Anti-Terror Law upon our people that only instills terror and fear? Is it not wickedness to prioritize a law that curtails basic rights and freedoms? Should we not put all our efforts at containing the pandemic which continues to spread uncontrolled?
Is it tapang and malasakit to close a media outfit and muzzle journalists? Is it not the work of the wicked to silence the press?
We have prayed fervently and discerned for the light that only our Triune God can give. We have begged God for the grace of courage and fortitude to stand up and be counted. We cannot but recall what Daniel had warned King Belshazzar in the midst of his unrepentance and wickedness:
“”MENE, MENE, TEQEL AND PARSIN…. God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it…. You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” (cf. Daniel 5, 25-28).
FR. CIELITO R. ALMAZAN, OFM
SR. MARILYN A. JAVA, RC
27 July 2020